In 2009, the Halcyon was publishing over 1,000 yearbooks to distribute to the Swarthmore community. In 2010, that number dropped by 20 percent. By 2011, publication had dropped by an additional 25 percent. This year, Halcyon is printing just enough yearbooks for the senior class. Swarthmore’s yearbook is facing the dual challenge of a decreasing budget and an increasing shortage of students willing to work on staff.
Former Halcyon editor Sarah Bricault ‘11 says Student Budget Committee (SBC) cuts are to blame. Bricault says that SBC cuts to the Halcyon over the last few years have lowered interest in the group, hindered production and created rumors that the yearbook group is disbanding. “Obviously, a large-scale publication like the yearbook requires a much higher budget than most other student groups, especially if you look at it from the standpoint of student participation,” Bricault said.
SBC Chairperson Amelia Mitter-Burke ’12 says that the Halcyon “is not a group started and maintained by volunteer students based on their personal interest in having this activity on campus.” As such, Halcyon, like Olde Club, the Student Activities Committee, the Movie Committee, and the shuttles, is a group that SBC pays to run.
Because of its partial management, during the past few years SBC has assumed responsibility to review the distribution of Halcyon’s budget. Because the group’s funds are spent primarily on the yearbook printer’s contract and payment for the yearbook’s editors, staff member salaries were the first to end up on the chopping block.
“We were told that we would simply have to made due with volunteers to make up the difference,” Bricault explained. “But since the Halcyon is not really a passion-driven extracurricular, we were very worried about our ability to generate sufficient interest and attract volunteer editors. After all, editing the Halcyon is a lot of work and even when the positions were paid there was never an overwhelming interest.”
The Halcyon faces a catch-22: the group needs the funds to publish a yearbook whether or not there are enough students to run it, but low interest in the group causes SBC to cut the group’s budget. Last year’s editors discussed the budget crunch and the purpose of a yearbook with several school administrators and members of the alumni office, but despite the people who agreed with Halcyon’s position, nobody could change the group’s funding or provide funds.
This year, the Halcyon only has enough money to pay two editors – down from five last year. In addition, Halcyon Executive Editor Cristian Taborda ’14 said this year’s staff was unprepared to take on the yearbook.
“I didn’t have enough experience or knowledge on how Halcyon‘s complex budget worked,” Taborda said.
According to Bricault, several students last year objected to the idea of a yearbook, whether due to economic or eco-friendly reasons. She argues that a yearbook is important to have: it’s not a normal school group, but a service to the alumni and college.
“Yearbooks are something that gain value with age,” she said. “It’s when you’re five, ten, twenty years out of school that you dig out your yearbook. It’s something parents and grandparents show their children. It’s a source of nostalgia. I think that if we’re not careful, the yearbook might cease to exist altogether.”